About Chinese Tea Leaf Eggs
Did you know we’re only a week away from the Chinese New Year?
It’s not a holiday that gets much fanfare here in the states, which really is a shame – between the week-long celebration, the festive decorations, and the cute family traditions, it’s just the type of holiday that would be a hit with those of us who reside in the western hemisphere.
And of course, being the foodie that I am, I can’t help but think about all the classic Chinese cuisine we don’t usually partake in, like fried prawns, Chinese BBQ pork, all the wontons and dumplings you could ask for…. and, of course, Chinese Tea Leaf Eggs.
I first had Chinese Tea Leaf Eggs what feels like forever ago, back during my
wild ultra nerdy college days, and now that this little blog has helped led me on my “culinary adventures,” it seemed only fitting to try my hand at making this traditional Chinese dish on my own.
And as it turns out, Chinese Tea Leaf Eggs are easy to make. Hunting down the star anise may be your biggest challenge, but you can substitute it for anise seed, which tends to be a little easier to find in your local grocery store.
Once you have your star anise (or anise seed), the rest of the ingredients are fairly common – black tea, sugar, water, etc etc. My favorite part of Chinese Tea Leaf Eggs is probably the soy sauce, since I think the taste really shines through (and I even recommend serving the eggs with more soy sauce for dipping). I think the quality of the soy sauce is very important in this recipe, so I used Kikkoman, a brand I’ve been a fan of ever since our favorite sushi chef recommended it to us. I use Kikkoman in so many types of recipes, even beyond the traditional Chinese dish – the rich flavor is the perfect compliment to all my favorite savory foods.
Quick cooking tip: by using 1/2 tsp Kikkoman Soy Sauce in place of 1/2 tsp salt, the sodium content of the recipe is cut by 1000 mg.
As far as cooking the Chinese Tea Leaf Eggs, the key to it is a long, slow simmer.
Once you’ve boiled the water, mixed the ingredients together, and gently cracked the shells, you’ll be simmering the eggs for 2 hours (or longer, for a more potent taste) – and if you’re anything like me, you’ll think your house smells like the most amazingly delicious food the entire time.
What I love most about Chinese Tea Leaf Eggs is that they’re not only beautiful – because they really are, aren’t they? The marbling of flavor is like a little work of art – but if you make them with a touch of orange zest, it can be seen as good luck for the Chinese New Year, since dishes made with orange represent good wealth and fortune (as oranges are China’s most plentiful fruit).
The hint of orange flavor is the perfect compliment to the black tea and Kikkoman Soy Sauce, creating a nice blend of sweet, tart, and salty tastes.
So go ahead, celebrate the impending year of the Monkey by making your favorite Chinese dishes with Kikkoman!
And don’t forget the orange for a touch of good fortune!
Chinese Tea Leaf Eggs
- Boil eggs per desired method. I high recommend checking out the guide to the perfect boiled egg by Savory Experiements.
- Submerge the eggs in cold water so that the eggs become cool enough to handle.
- While eggs cool, whisk together soy sauce, star anise (or anise seed), black tea leaves, sugar, salt, cinnamon stick, orange zest (if using), and cold water in a saucepan just large enough to fit the eggs.
- Remove eggs from water and towel dry. Using the back of a spoon, lightly tap the eggs so that the shell cracks, but not so hard that the shell loosens from the egg. It's okay if a few tiny pieces of shell break away - the tea stain will just be darker in that area. Once the egg shell is covered in cracks, gently place it in the saucepan with the tea mixture. Once all eggs are in the saucepan, make sure they're completely submerged in the tea mixture. If not, add more water, up to 1 additional cup.
- Bring saucepan to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Cover and let eggs simmer for 2 hours (or longer, for a more potent taste), adding more water to the pot as needed to keep the eggs submerged.
- Serve Chinese tea leaf eggs with shells removed (tip: roll the egg between your palms to loosen the shell, then slip off the shell) and with additional Kikkoman Soy Sauce for dipping.